The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Offaly [King's County] (Apr 2021)

Our 24th bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog highlights mathematical people associated with Offaly (formerly King's County), following on Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, Down, Cork, Cavan, Laois, Londonderry, Meath, Leitrim, Dublin, and Clare.

As usual, there are probably Irish maths (or maths ed or stats or actuarial or theoretical physics) people missing from this blog because while we know about them we don't yet know they are from Offaly.

Offaly was known as King's County from 1555 to 1929. During the period 1620 to 1899, Birr was officially called Parsonstown.

Comments, additions and corrections are, as always, welcome. As are more photographs.

Thanks to Olivia Bree (SPD) and Annette Pilkington (Notre Dame) for valuable input. Last updated 16 Feb 2024.


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00. Astronomer William Parsons (1800-1867) was born 17 June in York, England, to a Parsonstown family, and grew up at the family homestead, Birr Castle. He was educated first at TCD (who later awarded him MA 1832, LLD 1863) but after 2 years switched to Oxford (Magdalen, BA 1822). He then entered politics, being MP for King's County for several terms, meanwhile turning from maths to astronomy and engineering. He commenced an ambitious programme to construct large reflector telescopes at Birr Castle. By the mid 1840s, his "Leviathan" was complete, which for over 70 years held the title of the world's largest telescope. He also served as chancellor of TCD (1862-1867).

Wikipedia / Hermathena / DIB / Enc Brit

01. Leslie Badham (1812?-1879) was born in King's County, and was one of the first maths graduates of TCD (BA 1836+, MA 1840). His career was spent as a clergyman in Carlow.


02. Roger North (1816-1895) was born 5 April in Oldtown, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1839+, MA 1846). He ran his own school in Rathmines from 1857 on, having been ordained along the way. In 1873 he moved to Australia.

Schoool / Obit / Grave

03. Richard Walsh (1825-1862) was born in Kilduff, Tyrellspass, King's County, being baptised in early August. He was educated at TCD (BA 1846+, LLB 1851, LLD 1857), where he lectured in political science and statistics 1851-1856.  He then serves as assistant secretary to the Irish Endowed Schools Commission. The rest of his short life was mostly spent as superintendent of goverment schools in Mauritius. He published in statistics, and also authored the book An Elementary Treatise on Metallic Currency (1853).

Wikipedia / DIB / Obit

04. George Johnstone Stoney (1826-1911) was born 15 February at Oakley Park near Parsonstown (Birr), King's County. He was educated at TCD (BA 1847+, MA 1852), later getting honorary doctorates from RUI (1879) and TCD (1902). His career started at Birr Castle (1848-1852) and Queen's Galway (1852-1857). He then spent decades in educational administration (1857-1893), all the while publishing in the areas of cosmic physics and the theory of gases. He introduced the term "electron" in 1891. His daughter Edith also trained in maths.

Wikipedia / Ency Brit / DIB / Ingenius Irl

05. Edward Holmes (1828-1895) was born in Prospect, Ballycumber, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1850+). Most of his career was spent as a clergyman in Buckinghamshire, England.

06. Thomas Berry (1829-1892) was born 16 January in Tullamore, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1850+, MA 1867). Most of his career was spent as a clergyman in Bedfordshire, England.

Bio / Link



07. Robert Goodbody (1850-1911) was born 25 July in Dublin, and grew up in Clara, King's County. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1870, BA 1871, MA 1876). His career was mostly spent at the stock exchange, first in Dublin and then in New York City.



08. Charles Joly (1864-1906) was born 27 June at Hop Hill, near Tullamore, King's County, and was educated at TCD (Scholar, BA 1886, MA 1889?). He spent 1886-1887 in Berlin studying at the lab of Helmholtz & Koenig, then returned to TCD, publishing regularly, and obtaining Fellowship (1894) and DSc (1901). He was Director of Dunsink, Royal Astronomer of Ireland, and the seventh Andrews Professor of Astronomy (1897-1906) until his untimely death. He published new editions of Hamilton's books Elements of Quaternions (1899 & 1901) and his own A Manual of Quaternions (1905). He was also Secretary of the RIA. 

Wikipedia / Royal Soc / Obit

09. Francis Shortt (1864-1900) was born 21 October, at Cappagowlane, Killoughey, Tullamore, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1888). His short career was spent as a barrister.

Wikitree / Will

10. James Jackson (1868-1938) was born 17 May in Ballyoran, east of Kilcormac, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1894, BAI 1896, MA 1897, MAI 1900). After a couple of years working on railways in Thailand, the rest of his career was spent back at TCD in the engineering school. He was president of the Inst of Civil Engineers of Ireland in 1924.

1911 Census / ICEI / Bio / Grave

11. James Yates (1869-1929) was born 24 February in Frankfort, Kilcormac, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1891, MA 1894). His career was spent as a school inspector, including stints in Cork, Armagh, Tipperary, Louth and Dublin. Following partition, he moved to Belfast, and continued to work in education. His brother John below, and 3 of his children also did maths at TCD, most notably daughter Barbara.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

12. John Yates (1873-1949) was born 2 September in Ballinacarrig, east of Kilcormac, King's County, brother of James above. He was educated at TCD (Sci Scholar 1897, BA 1898), and spent his career as a clergyman.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Obit

13. Arthur Kenny (1883-1916) was born 8 February in Moystown, near Shannonbridge, King's County, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1905, BA 1906, MA 1909). He was lecturer of maths at Birmingham, until his untimely death.

1901 Census

14. James Fay (1891-1967) was born 15 September in Blundell House, Edenderry, King's County. He was educated at UCD (BA 1912, BSc & MSc 1913, BE 1915). Despite winning an NUI Travelling Scholarship in physics, he first worked for the King's County Council. After teaching maths and then physics at Catholic University in Washington DC, 1920-1923, he joined the dept of industry & commerce in Dublin, and in 1927 the fledgling ESB, serving for decades as a director. In his final years, he also he taught maths at UCD.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / ESB / Obit

15. George Joughin (1886-1950) was born 21 July in Ballyduff, King's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1910+, 1915). His career was spent as a doctor in Birmingham.

1901 Census / Bio

16. Hugh Holohan (1892-1957) was born 29 December in Tullamore, King's County, and was educated at UCD (BA 1913). His career was spent teaching at Blackrock College.

Blackrock College

17. Angel Rainsford (later Wilson, 1899-1984) was born 17 February in Roscrea, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Clare and Offaly. She was educated at TCD (Scholar, BA 1921). Following the death of her husband, she taught at Glen Ban, Abbeyleix (starting in 1939, where she was headmistress) and in Banbridge, Down (throughout the 1950s). Photo courtesy of Joan Dawson.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Family / Grave

18. Rene Hobson (later Benson, 1915-2010) was born 7 May in Parsonstown, King's County, and grew up there and in Cork. She was educated at TCD (BA 1937), and spent her career teaching, first at Alexandra College and then at Portora.


19. Mathematician, geophysicist and social activist Gerry Gardner (1926-2009) was born in Tullamore, Offaly. He was educated at TCD, Carnegie Mellon and Princeton University. His 1953 PhD was on "The concept of a rigid body in special relativity". He worked in the USA in the oil and natural gas industries, returning to academia in later life. A statistical analysis of his was used in a US Supreme Court decision.

Wikipedia / SEG / Obit 1 / Obit 2 / Obit 3 / Obit 4

20. Jeremiah O'Keeffe (1927?-1959) was born in Tullamore, Offaly, and grew up there and in Galway city. He was educated at UCG (BA 1948, MA 1949) and the University of London (PhD 1953). His thesis on "Applications of Fourier Transforms to Potential Theory" was done with George Temple. After a few years teaching at UCG, he went to the Courant Institute in 1958, but sadly died within a year.


21. Michael Kelly (1929-2021) was born 19 May in Tullamore, Offaly, and was educated at first at UCD (BA 1951, MA 1952). His career was spent as a missionary, teaching at Canisius Secondary School in Zambia and later at the University of Zambia. Along the way, he got a doctorate in education at Birmingham (1974).

Wikipedia / Link / SJ

22. Oliver O'Connor was born in Coolagh, Geashill, east of Tullamore, Offaly. He was educated at first at Kevin Street (BSc 1974) and at TCD (MSc in CS 1975). His career started at the RTC in Dundalk, followed by a spell in industry. He then spent 25 years in the CS dept back at Kevin Street.


23. Annette Pilkington was born 16 January in Daingean, Offaly.  She was educated at first at UCD (BA maths & econ 1984, MA 1985), then at Notre Dame (PhD 1991).  Her thesis on "Normal Subgroups of 4-Dimensional Hyperbolic Orthogonal Groups over Arithmetic Domains" was done with Alex Hanh.  After a few years at Florida Int and St Mary's College, she returned to Notre Dame. Her interests are in classical groups, K-theory, and representation theory.

Notre Dame

24. Dermot Ryan was born in Tullamore, Offaly, and was educated entirely at UCD (BSc 1995, MSc 1996, PhD 2001+). His thesis on "Galois Co-descent for Wild Kernels" was done with Kevin Hutchinson. Most of his career has been spent in portfolio management.



25. Paul O'Gorman was born in Tullamore, Offaly, was was educated at first at TCD (BA 1998, MSc in CS 1999). His Caltech Phd on "Theory and Simulation of Passive Scalar Mixing in the Presence of a Mean Scalar Gradient" was done under Dale Pullin.  Most of his career has been spent at MIT, where he is not professor of atmospheric science.


26. Ciara Bergin was born in Offaly, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 2003,MSc 2005, thesis "Simply-connected Spin Brieskorn 5-Manifolds" with David Wraith) and at the University of London (PhD 2010). Her career so far has spent as a data scientist at Jules-Gonin Eye Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she works in statistical analysis and the modeling of clinical data in ophthalmology.

ResearchGate / LinkedIn / Maynooth

27. Ronan Egan was born 11 May in Ferbane, Offaly, and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2011, PhD 2015), his thesis on "Topics in Cocyclic Development of Pairwise Combinatorial Designs" being done with Dane Flannery. He did postdocs at the Univ of Rijeka in Croatia and back at NUIG, and is now at DCU. 

NUIG / ResearchGate / LinkedIn